On paper this was going to be a fascinating game. It was 5th v 6th – whoever lost would find finals contention much more difficult, whereas the winner would be best placed to stake their claim to a place in the final 4. For Canberra, the stakes were even higher. They had to win. What were they going to pull out of the bag?
There were some caveats to this seemingly even matched game. Victory were in fantastic form, recovering from a slow start to the season to win their last 3 games. Canberra were doing the opposite by sliding down the table with 3 successive 4-0 losses. The Vuck were clear favourites, then – but it remained to be seen if Canberra could pull anything special out of the bag with their season on their line.
Canberra played like they have been all season. They showed sparks through Simone Charley and Camila, they looked threatening, they had some gilded chances – but they left themselves exposed in doing so. I mused while watching it that they are like a team with the attitude of “however much you score, I’ll score more,” except that they can’t bloody score.
Victory dominated the ball and field position early on and their dominance soon converted to goals. It was Melina Ayres, in her first start of the season, who was in the right place in the box to convert a Darian Jenkins cross into a goal. An incredibly likeable young player who has struggled of late breaks back into the team and scores. Things you love to see: it.
Ayres wasn’t done there. Victory continued to sniff around the Canberra box and were rewarded less than 10 minutes later. The ball found its way to Dowie in the box with her back to goal. The usual Victory goal scorer was able to turn provider by laying it off to Ayres to crash home into the bottom corner. The Vuck were cruising.
The first half was so one sided I thought that we might have a fourth 4-0 against Canberra. It would have been poetic, but a little bit tragic.
The women in green came out with a little bit more zest in the second half. A little more pizzazz, if you will. Their season was on the line and they were going to throw everything at getting back into this game.
Alas, they could not. They had several fantastic chances but every time they had a sighter on goal it either flew wide or ended up in the mits of the best keeper in the league (and also most fashionable on account of the baseball cap) Casey Dumont. If they were going to come back into the game they had to be clinical. They were anything but.
Of course a game featuring Dowie FC was never going to be complete without a Natasha Dowie goal and she was able to head home an Amy Jackson cross late in the second half to make it 3-0. She could have had a hatrick, mind you. For all that I can criticise Canberra for not being clinical, the team from Melbourne were probably even worse. Dowie had several chances you would have bet your house on her scoring (or at least hitting the target!). Darian Jenkins, who had a blinder and deserved a goal, even scuffed a one-on-one chance with the keeper in the second half. Had chances been taken, it could have been something like 6-2. The result wouldn’t have changed.
So, with a 3-0 win Victory’s late season resurgence goes marching on. I credit a lot of their turnaround to the form of Jenkins and Rosie Sutton, who are providing their always exceptional captain Dowie with some support. Their defence has also had time to click. Angie Beard is criminally underrated, and the addition of players like Jenna (albeit she didn’t play in this game) meant that the team needed more time to adjust as a cohesive unit.
I’ll bang on about it until something changes but Victory are another team that exemplifies this issue with our short W League season. They’re only getting better and I’m afraid the season isn’t long enough to see the best of them.
As for Canberra, their season is now over. They’re a team that flatter to deceive, really. They’re not as bad as what the results of the last few games suggest but any team that cannot keep possession and continually gives over the ball is going to struggle. You can have all of the creative power in the world, and their defence individually hasn’t been bad, exactly, but if you can’t hit your passes and keep the ball you’re going to struggle. Perhaps they’ve really missed Katie Stengel, who was presumably supposed to be the finisher for her fellow international’s creatives sparks.
The last few games for them will be about restoring some pride and setting a platform for their youngsters to kick off from next season.
By Taryn Heddo